“Looks like that lady’s here, craving for her mother’s sympathy,” Mrs. Jujou called out from the front gate with her daughter next to her. “She’s a crybaby!”
Maimi scowled. She was helping her mother to do the laundry at the side yard but she was still amazed at how the two stupid family members could find her there. She snatched a cloth and hung it on the line, ignoring them.
Mira tossed her hair. “Of course! I wonder where her husband is.”
“He’s working,” Maimi said softly under her breath.
“What? Working?” both of the Jujous scoffed. “You should be ashamed with yourself. Going out with someone else in the middle of the night! Shame on you that you’re almost got raped!” Mira shouted.
Maimi gasped. She took a deep breath and let it go indignantly. She looked at their direction. “Stay away from this!”
Mira mocked an expression. “Oooohhh! I’m scared! Help me mommy!” Then she laughed. Mrs. Jujou joined, slapping her daughter’s back.
“Take this!” a harsh girl voice came from behind them with her right leg stamping on Mira’s foot.
Mira shrieked, holding her foot. Mrs. Jujou was shocked.
Peppei showed up. She pushed aside Mira and went into the yard. “Get out of here right now or I-“
Mira and Mrs. Jujou ran away. Peppei smiled with satisfaction. She walked to her friend. “Are you okay?”
Maimi nodded solemnly. She continued to do her job. Peppei sighed as she rested her butt on the wooden floor that led to the kitchen. “Damn, those folks need to be in jail instead of that culprit.”
Maimi sniggered. “Totally.”
Peppei stifled a yawn. She rubbed her messy hair after working so hard yesterday at the saloon. The hairspray vapour did make her face and her hair turned weak. Besides, she was too tired intoxicating with the customers’ body perfumes. They smelled like rotten fruits.
“I haven’t slept yet. Too lazy to go home,” Peppei moaned. Maimi leaned forward to see her friend’s panda eyes.
“My, that’s terrible. I’m sorry for not working with you again,” she declared. “I would like to work at the saloon again but I still need to work at the share company. It’s not my main profession.”
“But you earn lots of money, my dear,” Peppei told her with a low voice. She pulled up her feet and lie down. She closed her eyes. “You have to admit that now you’re a popular, rich manager’s wife. He can lend you five credit cards for you to shop till you drop.”
Maimi sat next to her after finishing her laundry. “He’s in charge of keeping my salary, you know.”
“What?” Peppei laughed.
Maimi folded her legs and watch the cloudless sky moving lazily. It was nearly afternoon and the sun heat rose. That was her favourite weather of all time. “I’m telling you the truth. But he did tell me that if I need anything that’s important, then he’ll give some.”
Peppei smiled with her eyes shut closed. “So, how’s it going now? Are you gonna stay here forever?”
Maimi shook her head. “No. Tezuka’s going to do a press conference regarding to this matter tomorrow and I bet everything’s will be back to normal after that. I hope so. I miss him so much.”
“A press conference?” Peppei asked, widening her eyes.
“Yes, a press conference,” Maimi repeated. “He’s going to tell the truth in front of those curious reporters.”
Peppei closed her eyes back, sighing with relief. “Thank God he’s a smart, intelligent young guy. He’s very dedicated.”
“And cute!” Maimi shouted. Her face blushed.
Peppei laughed loudly. “Man, you’re too absorbed with him, dear.”
“Of course I do. He’s my husband.”
“Speaking of that, when are you guys going to hold a honeymoon trip? It’s been a month and a half after your wedding day but no vacation?” Peppei asked.
Maimi sighed. She took a thick branch on the ground and waggled it up and down. “I don’t know. He’s still got a lot to do. By the way, the news hasn’t calm yet.”
Peppei finally got up. She slapped Maimi’s tiny back abruptly. “You have to go for a honeymoon trip! I think that’s the best way to recover this situation! Have a nice wine, chicken or candlelight dinner together or etc.!”
Maimi threw the branch away. It hit the neighbour’s gate. “I wish.”
Tezuka got out of his car that was parked in front of Kaoru’s Cake House that night. He did not eat lunch due to his bad mood. It was hard to even look or munch food when you were thinking or something else that was more urgent than eating. Ayaka had invited him for a lunch together like they used too for work but he seemed reluctant to do so since he had always ate lunch with Maimi.
His stomach grumbled when he was driving home after a hard work so he decided to drop by his favourite cake shop to buy cheesecake. A cheesecake could make him feel better when he was a single man. But despite that Maimi was not around, he could relax his ear from hearing his name being called Nezumi. A mouse. It was pity and shame to be called like that.
He went to the counter. “Give me the usual cheesecake.”
The counter girl nodded. She pushed the display freezer beside her and slid out a slice of cheesecake with a strawberry on top of it.”
“Wait-,” Tezuka prodded. The counter girl stopped, blinking.
“I’ll have the whole cake,” he said. The counter girl grinned slightly and put back the cake.
“Just a minute, sir,” she muttered, strolling toward the back door. Tezuka sighed. He sat by a desk and held his head with both hands. He could hear other people were whispering. He was wondering what could have caused the sudden whisper.
By the time he heard a man behind him mentioned his name and the newspapers’ title, he felt like a rock as heavy as a concrete hit his head. He knew exactly the news had spread to every single small area.
Tezuka’s cell phone rang. He felt a bit relief. Taking out the ringing cell phone out of his slack’s pocket, he saw Maimi’s phone number but he labeled it as ‘Old miss’. His heart had a sudden of joy. He cleared his throat and took the call.
“Hello, honey!” Maimi’s high-pitch voice somehow calmed his tensed mind. He tried to ignore the happiness in his heart by saying, “Hey, old miss. Are you nuts? First it’s Nezumi, then honey?”
Maimi’s tiny chuckle could be heard echoing through the phone. “I miss you! I really do SO much!”
Tezuka rolled his eyes. He turned his gaze at a young couple who was gawping at him. He pasted his lips and looked away. “Don’t you have anything to do? Are you gonna miss me everytime? Every single time?”
“I do miss you a lot. Don’t you feel the same?” Maimi’s sad voice seemed to occur. Tezuka knew she was going to cry. She was too easy to cry. He sighed out.
“Dream it,” he said. There were a few seconds of silence. He closed his eyes as he heard Maimi’s tiny voice that was holding the tears. “Hey, don’t cry.”
“Sir, your order is ready,” the counter girl called. Tezuka glanced at her and held up his right hand, showing that he will take later.
“Stop crying or I won’t take you home, silly,” he blurted. Obviously, he wanted to say that he missed her too. But with her ego piled up upon his intuition, he managed to say the opposite way.
“Okay,” Maimi responded, swallowing hard. She made a kiss sound. “Love ya’!”
Tezuka scoffed. He got up and went to the counter. There was a pinkish box with red ribbon to carry it. “Hey, I’m hanging up. Don’t waste your credit, old miss.”
He hung up and sucked his cell phone into his pocket. He paid for the cake and brought it out. When he had settled down in his seat in the car, he felt sorry for not being good to Maimi. Tezuka looked at the cake on the passenger seat. He opened the box and there it was, a large white cream cheesecake with full strawberries at the edge. His favourite cake ever. Maimi’s favourite cake too. He wished he could share it with her instead of eating it by himself.
Grandma Megu ate her oat slowly during breakfast on the next day. She was having a hard time swallowing the liquid meal because of what had happened to Maimi and Tezuka last three days. She was too upset and feeling like fainting just to get to know about the news.
She kept thinking of how poor Maimi was. Thankfully, Tezuka was there at the precise time. But she was still feeling uneasy. Mrs. Fujimoto took a bite of her meat loaf cautiously while looking at her mother.
“Mom?” she prodded between munches. “Are you okay?”
Grandma Megu gaped at her and grabbed a cup of hot chocolate. She lifted it in front of her mouth. “Do I look like one?”
Mrs. Fujimoto changed glances with her husband, Mr. Fujimoto who sat across her. Ayase was eating her tuna sandwich alone since she needed to rush to school. She did not want to get involve in that situation.
“Mom,” Mr. Fujimoto began. He put down his fork on a plate. “I know that you’re worry about them but let them settle it. They’re both adults, not youngsters.”
“Besides, Tezuka told that he’s going to do a live press conference this morning around ten. Why don’t you listen to what he’s going to say? They’re gonna be fine,” Mrs. Fujimoto coaxed.
Ayase drank her orange juice. She put down the glass carefully as if she would explode a bomb. “Grandpa is going out from the hospital today, right?”
Grandma Megu looked up. “Yes. We’ll take him home today.”
“You watch the press, I’ll go fetch him,” Mr. Fujimoto suggested, biting his salad.
“No, no. I want each one of you to watch the press,” Grandma Megu vowed. She took a sip at her hot chocolate.
Ayase grinned. She got up. “But I need to go to school. Bye!” she said and made a big bow. She left a kiss on her mother’s cheek and ran to the front door.
A bunch of reporters turned around as Tezuka’s BMW parked in front of a silver building named Sunday Times. It was the television station, the most popular one in Japan. The parking lot was congested with cars and people who were curious to know.
Tezuka got out of his car. He was supposed to meet Ayaka and three other male workers. They were selected by him to accompany his presence there. He reached the lobby along with a furious line of reporters behind him. Security guards came to calm the situation.
He spotted Ayaka and the others beside a lift. They neared him.
“Hi boss,” the three guys greeted. Ayaka smiled. Tezuka nodded.
“Let’s go,” he vowed. They went to second floors and they were guided by an assistant toward a big hall. Tezuka entered the place and saw several invited reporters sat at their places with eyes darted at him.
Tezuka was asked to come up in front and sat by a long desk with a many microphones represented by various television stations. He settled down slowly and breathed in. Ayaka and the three guys stood at a corner.
“Good morning, everyone,” he said. The reporters nodded. Tezuka’s head was spinning and he kept blinking at those camera flashes. But he stayed calm. “I’m here to solve the news and I’ll try to answer as much as I could.”
Ayaka smirked. She loved how cool her boss was—with his hair and matching glasses. His high-cheek bones showed through the flashes. His tall and built body looked great as he always be.
“Hello, Tezuka-kun. I’m the head of this meeting,” a reporter, who was a man in his thirties began. He was sitting in front of all the other people. “I’m going to ask you the first question.”
Tezuka just kept silent.
“Why did Maimi go to see that man?”
Tezuka watched the others leaning forward to listen to what he was going to say. He cleared his throat and placed his mouth an inch away from the microphone. “That man is a client. He chose Maimi to show him about the goodness in investing into my company. He didn’t want anybody else.”
The reporters whispered with each other. Some of them started to jot down his words. Just then, a hand raised up. Tezuka did not know what to do about that so he just softened a nod. It was a lady. She stood up with her a notebook in her hands.
“Where were you during that time?” she asked.
“I was at a lake. It ‘s a twenty minutes of drive to reach the incident place,” Tezuka replied automatically since he knew that question will be asked that day.
The reporters nodded. Another hand got up. This time it was a guy with round glasses. He was stammering when he asked, “How-how-come-c-“
A lady next to him snatched the notebook out of his grip and got up. “How come you know the place? It’s an abandon area and it’s only one percent of humans would be going there.”
Tezuka’s charming eyebrows raised. The lady seemed amaze. She grinned shyly and sat back. Tezuka did not even do that on purpose. That was his style before he answered a complicated question but every single girl would fall for that simple gesture.
“Hey, it’s the twenty-first century. I have a cell phone and my wife has one too. She called me and managed to say where she is. So, as soon as I spotted her clue, I drove there.”
“What makes you punch that client without investigating the truth?!” a mad voice from somewhere from behind the reporters shot. Everyone swapped faces into furious looks.
Tezuka was angry. He gripped his fists. “What makes you mad about that?!”
The hall fell into silence. Every eye was at him. “If you’re a guy, knowing that your girlfriend or relative or somebody hell out there is being raped, what would you do?” he continued.
An awkward silence seemed to harden. Tezuka groaned. “If you call cops that time, it’s too late. It’s damn too late. If you don’t punch the slut, he will punch you. And if you’re a weak and soft guy, nothing’s going to be alright. He will kick you out of the place and continue to take away your girl. I mean, she will be pregnant in no time if you’re acting like a fool!”
The reporters gulped. They tended to agree on this.
“It’s a good thing my wife was not raped. You guys should feel that too,” he finished. His forehead wrinkled as the result for being too angry and hot-tempered.
The hall was flooded with talks and discussions. Tezuka sighed. He was hoping that the press conference will end as soon as possible. He could not sit there, staring into every eye and every camera lenses like an idiot.
But there was another guy stood up. “So, where’s the culprit?”
“Don’t you read newspapers? Calling yourself a reporter!” Tezuka snapped.
That guy sat back, his legs shivered.
Tezuka let out a tense sigh. He licked his red, parched lips. “I dragged the culprit to a police station and he was arrested as soon as he admitted his evil mistake.”
Everyone nodded eagerly. Ayaka did the same.
“You’re a popular young manager,” the head of the reporter spoke suddenly. Silence came later. “What’re you gonna do to recover your relationship with your wife, Maimi? Does the incident affect your marriage? Where’s your wife right now? Can she come here and give a statement or two?”
The sarcastic tone in the head reporter’s voice made Tezuka feel like punching him. But he calmed down. “I want you guys to shut up. Secondly, I want the photographer who took the pictures to be appeal and show him or herself. Third, our marriage is still okay and she needs to be alone right since she’s still traumatized.”
Every head seemed to agree by nodding non-stop while writing down his statements. Tezuka rested his back against the seat. At last, he had told them the truth then they will never bother his life and Maimi’s.